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The Conclusive Data Supporting a 4-Day Work Week
A deep-dive into a recent study from 4 Day Week Global.
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Last fall I wrote about how it was time for the American workforce to transition to a 4-day work week. The majority of my argument rested on the fact that a 5-day work week was established as a result of American workers becoming 248% more efficient between the start of the Second Industrial Revolution (1870) and the eve of the Great Depression (1929). As the past century has brought similar production increases, another reduction in working hours is warranted.
Since the codification of the 5-day work week in 1940, American workers have become 452% more productive, judging by GDP (2018). Logically, if a 248% increase in productivity warranted another day off, so would the 452% increase between 1940 - 2018. (In fact, it means we should be considering a 3-day work week.) You can read the whole piece here:
As this argument was theoretical, I supported it with the practical example of an ongoing study of a 4-day work week conducted by the appropriately named nonprofit 4 Day Week Global (4DWG). At the time of my first piece, 4DWG’s pilot program was at its halfway point, showing promising results. Now, the study has been concluded, providing a complete look at the human and economic impacts a 20% reduction in working hours could bring.
What the Report Says
4DWG’s study was conducted in 2022 across staggered six-month periods to mitigate economy-wide trends in employment, revenue, and other potentially disrupting factors.
The findings are as enlightening as they are unambiguous. To quote from the report’s abstract: “The results are now in: the trials have been a resounding success on virtually every dimension.”
To ensure their study was thorough, the researchers measured performance with two metrics:
Administrative data from employers, which provided concrete measurements of tangible financial performance.
Anecdotal survey data from workers, which gave insight into the hard-to-quantify human effects of the reduction in work hours.
Both methods point to the effectiveness of a 4-day work week.
Workers responded overwhelmingly positively to the pilot, with 96.9% saying they wanted the process to continue. 67% reported decreased burnout and job satisfaction rose from 7.34 to 7.62 (measured on a scale from 1 - 10). Participants reported using their extra time off to be with their friends and families, do chores, pursue hobbies, and exercise, which they felt had led to significant improvements in their physical and mental health. Sleep problems fell by 8%, fatigue levels fell by 9%, and mental health as a whole increased from 3.03 to 3.33 (on a scale of 1-5). Needless to say, this is a massive improvement in just six months. On the same 1-5 scale, physical health reportedly increased from 3.17 to 3.35, implying reducing work time would lower healthcare costs for individuals, companies, and society as a whole.
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While all of these metrics are well-received, I find the most heartwarming data point to be the striking increase in the responses to the question: “How satisfied are you with your life?”
Before the trial, respondents answered with an average score of 6.64. After the trial, that same question received an average score of 7.53 — an increase of .89 in just six months. Though it may not sound like much, extrapolating this response back into the human experience shows its importance. Simply reducing working time from forty hours a week to thirty-two hours a week made workers’ lives almost 10% better. The time they spend with their families just got 10% better. Their enjoyment of everyday activities just got 10% better. Their overall satisfaction with life just got 10% better.
People spend exorbitant amounts of money trying to make their lives 1% better, never mind 10%. Americans spend millions every year hoping to remove the barriers to our stress, dismay, and depression. The wealthy pay therapists, buy sports cars, and go on lavish vacations. The working class, who cannot afford these luxuries, must endeavor their situation. Yet, as this data shows, the key to a better life is simply spending less time submitting to the dictatorship that is the workplace, freeing workers to do whatever it is that brings them fulfillment. One doesn’t need a Lamborghini to find more satisfaction in life (though I’ll take it if you’re offering). We simply need to work less.
And though the well-being of workers should always take precedence over private profit, it is worth pointing out that companies benefited from this program as well. Increased economic indicators are a good sign that a reduction in work time would be a net positive for the economy, and therefore humanity as a whole.
Of the thirty-three companies that began the pilot, twenty-seven submitted the concluding survey. Of those twenty-seven, eighteen have committed to keeping the 4-day structure, with seven planning to keep it but have yet to institute it, one company is leaning towards continuing, and another is not yet sure. Of the thirty-three companies that participated, none have reported a return to a 5-day work week.
Examination of the participating business’s key financial metrics shows their enthusiasm for the 4-day work week is genuine and not just a public-relations ploy. As previously mentioned, the trial took place in 2022, when workers left their jobs in droves. This period was dubbed “The Great Resignation,” for obvious reasons. Yet for companies that participated in the 4-day program, their headcount increased by 12.16%. So while other organizations using a 5-day workweek were struggling to keep workers from quitting, companies operating on a 4-day workweek were gaining employees.
During the pilot, revenue, the gold standard business metric, increased by 8.14%. This was also a massive year-over-year increase, with participating companies reporting a 37.55% increase in revenue compared to the year prior.
And as the study indicates, there is a third party that benefits from a 4-day workweek, one that workers and bosses alike are perpetually dependent on: planet Earth. Although the study was too small to prove the overall impact on carbon emissions and other key environmental factors, the pilot’s collected data naturally points to a benefit for the environment.
During the pilot, participants’ commuting time fell by about one hour per week. 4% of respondents said they’d stopped commuting by car, opting for more environmentally friendly transportation, such as public transportation or walking. And while it can’t be quantified, participant testimony indicated workers were more likely to make eco-friendly decisions, such as recycling and seeking out sustainable products once they were made aware of the environmental benefits their 4-day work week carried.
The most pernicious psychological trick the Capitalist class has ever employed is accusing the working class of “being lazy” in an attempt to divide workers, hoping some will proclaim “I’m not lazy!” and submit to mistreatment and exploitation. Whenever pro-worker initiatives such as the transition to a 4-day work week are put forth, the people who amass fortunes off the backs of workers retort with accusations of workers having “weak work ethics” and complaints of “nobody wants to work anymore.”
But as this report shows, the exorbitant working hours imposed on the American working class are unnecessary. They do not better the human condition, nor are they a requirement to support a 21st-century lifestyle. All the forty-hour work week does is bolster the profits of Capitalists while sapping the working class of their sanity, security, and the opportunity to explore as much as this life has to offer.
As a 4-day work week would greatly improve the happiness, purpose, and well-being of billions of people while potentially increasing our economic production, Socialists, labor advocates, and, to be quite blunt, anyone who seeks to leave a better world for their children should advocate for an immediate reduction in working hours so that we may all obtain achieve our inalienable right to pursue happiness.
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What do you think about a 4-day workweek? Would you like it? Why, or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments. (I promise, I read and respond to every one!)